For many people, guinea pigs are the ideal pet. They enjoy being around people and other guinea pigs, and can also be independent. With an average lifespan of six to eight years, it’s important that their humans understand that they are a long-term commitment.
If you’re thinking about adopting a guinea pig, you’ll want to consider what life with guinea pigs involves:
- Guinea pigs require daily care and interaction.
- They need adequate space to move around and get exercise.
- Guinea pigs should always be kept indoors in temperature-controlled areas with ambient temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you will be caring for more than one guinea pig (which is recommended, because they are very social animals), be sure all your pigs are of the same gender, unless they have been spayed and neutered. Because spaying and neutering guinea pigs is expensive, and not all vets will perform the surgeries, many guinea pig owners don’t have it done. However, if you adopt your guinea pigs from Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), they will be altered before you bring them home.
- Guinea pigs make all sorts of fun and silly noises.
- Some guinea pigs enjoy being cuddled or snuggled. Others prefer to be left alone.
- Guinea pigs rarely sleep, and they tend to be most active at night. They take very short naps and sometimes sleep with their eyes open.
- They poop a lot, so be prepared to clean their cages every day.
- Guinea pigs need to eat almost constantly. For them to remain healthy, their digestive systems need to be working most of the time. They eat fresh hay, fresh vegetables, fruit, and pellets.
These are just a few of the things you need to know before you decide to adopt a guinea pig – or two! You’ll find plenty of good information about care of guinea pigs online or by speaking with an adoption counselor at ACC or another organization that offers guinea pigs for adoption.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
During COVID lockdowns when people spent more time at home, pet adoptions increased dramatically, creating a shortage of available dogs and cats at shelters. As a result, sales of guinea pigs at pet stores soared. But with children returning to the classroom and parents heading back to the office, guinea pig owners across the country began to flood shelters with surrendered guinea pigs.
Since 2018, the annual intake of guinea pigs at ACC has more than doubled, from 325 in 2018 to 709 in 2021. Since the start of the pandemic, ACC has taken in 1,065 guinea pigs, the majority of which were purchased from pet stores.
“Most of the guinea pigs surrendered to ACC are between a year and a year-and-a-half old, aligning with the timeline for the purchase of pandemic pets,” says Katy Hansen, ACC’s Director of Marketing & Communications. “Few of those surrendered had been spayed or neutered when they arrived at the shelter. Guinea pigs purchased in stores are almost never spayed or neutered because the surgery is expensive and many veterinarians don’t perform it on guinea pigs.
“We’re counting on New Yorkers to step up and help out with this crisis,” Katy continues. “If you’re thinking of bringing a new pocket pet into your family, adopt a pair of guinea pigs from ACC now!”
But remember, before bringing guinea pigs into your family, be sure you understand what to expect. This is another reason you should adopt from a shelter instead of purchasing from a pet store. Adoption counselors at the shelter will help guide your decision to adopt and will instruct you on proper care of your pigs, whereas most pet stores don’t offer that kind of individual counseling.
A recent incident in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park underscores the importance of understanding the responsibilities of bringing guinea pigs into your home and why it is important that they be spayed or neutered. A child dumped two adult guinea pigs and their two offspring in the park because his mother told him to get rid of them after they bred. Domesticated guinea pigs cannot survive in the wild, and abandoning them (or any companion animal) is illegal in New York State and is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan found the guinea pig family and notified Urban Park Rangers, who rescued them before they became lunch for a Red-tailed Hawk watching from above. The parent should have brought the guinea pigs to ACC instead of leaving the responsibility of “getting rid of” the pigs to her young child.
A New Law Would Ban the Sale of Guinea Pigs in Pet Stores
Legislation that would prohibit pet stores from selling guinea pigs has been re-introduced in the New York City Council. Voters For Animal Rights (VFAR) is one of many organizations, including the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, which support the re-introduction of Intro 4 – legislation by Council Member Diana Ayala that would prohibit the sale of guinea pigs in New York City pet stores.
Allie Feldman Taylor, President of VFAR, explains why the law is critical. “Such a law would not only prevent guinea pigs from overburdening our city’s animal shelters and rescues but it would also encourage the adoption of guinea pigs from Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC), whose staff is facing an unprecedented and challenging increase in the intake of guinea pigs.”
Intro 4 has a precedent that points to its success. When the sale of rabbits by pet stores was banned in New York City in 2014, area shelters reported a steep decrease in the number of rabbit surrenders.
How You Can Help
If you’re ready, adopt a pair of guinea pigs this month! Meet some of the sweet and funny pigs available at ACC.
Whether you adopt or not, you can help by supporting Intro 4 to ban the sale of guinea pigs in pet stores. Contact your representative on the New York City Council and urge them to co-sponsor Intro 4.